If you ever wondered why Strasse des 17. Juni has its name, you have to watch this short movie from British Pathé from the Berlin Riots of 1953. This short movie is not a documentary but a newsreel report about the uprising of workers against the Communist Regime in East Germany. This is the real deal, not an interpretation of what happened.
If you don’t know what was happening back on June 17th, 1953, let us try to explain to you. The Second World War ended a few years before and Germany was split into 4 areas. The largest part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union and they implemented a socialist regime there. Not necessarily, the people that lived in that part of Germany agreed with it and the transition wasn’t dealt in the best way. In 1953, a feeling of discontent with the economic and social conditions in East Germany reached a peak.
On June 16, construction workers on what was then Stalinallee, now Karl-Marx-Allee, laid down their tools and stopped working. They marched towards the House of Ministries and protested against state demands for increased production quotas. This was the first act, a small act of defiance that worked as a spark that lighted a fire that grew to a general strike.
On the next day, June 17, people from East Germany went to the streets in towns and cities across the country. The crowds were getting larger and the demands from them too. Now they were demanding the resignation of the government and free elections.
The East German government didn’t agree with the protest and asked for help from the Soviet Union. What happened next was unheard of. The Soviet Army went to the streets with tanks and soldiers against the people from East Germany and you can see it all in the video below.
The Berlin Riots of 1953 are remembered in a memorial in front of the former House of the Ministries, today this is the Ministry of Finance. Also, there is Strasse des 17. Juni which goes from the Brandenburger Tor all the way to Ernst-Reuter-Platz.